Perlite Vs Sand; coarse sand for plants; carnivorous plant soil mix

Perlite Vs Sand: Everything You Need To Know For Gardening

Succulents are super picky regarding the type of soil holding their roots. For example, a succulent plant would rather endure drought than grow in garden soil.

Does that mean you need to take a trip to the desert to fetch some soil for your plants? No.

You can manufacture some succulent soil in the comfort of your home. Will you need any machinery for this? No.

All you need is to add some ingredients to your regular potting soil to make it conducive for your plants. 

As we shall see later, there are several types of ingredients that help in creating succulent soil. However, this article will focus more on two of these ingredients, namely perlite Vs sand.

Why Do You Need Succulent Soil?

What are some of the things that come into your mind when you want to bring up a plant? Seed, garden/potting soil, and water. True?

Now, for a succulent or pitcher plant, you have to be more careful with the amount of water you are feeding it. 

I know that you love your plants so much and want to give them maximum care. However, you need to lessen your watering sessions on these plants.

It’s good to remember that succulents and pitcher plants hate excessive water. Too much water will make plant roots rot and even lead to the death of your beautiful plants.

Now, to regulate the amount of water around the plant roots, you will need to have the right soil down there.

That said, succulent or pitcher plant potting soil needs to be well-draining. Also, this soil needs to be airy to allow oxygen to reach the plant roots for healthy growth.

Compacted soil like clay or dense garden soil holds too much water and allows no airflow to the roots of your plants. This can lead to the death of your drought plants.

So, it will be great if you will add perlite or sand to your soil to make it hospitable to your plants.


Have you ever come across a bag of potting soil? If so, did you notice some small whitish objects resembling Styrofoam balls in the mixture? Well, those objects are called perlite.

Now, perlite is a naturally occurring mineral. It is created from volcanic rock. This mineral has minimal weight and is long-lasting. 

Perlite is sterile. Therefore, it adds no acidity or alkalinity to your soil. 

This soil addition creates a great succulent, pitcher, or carnivorous plant soil mix, promoting soil drainage and aeration.

Perlite types

Perlites are classified into three types depending on their sizes: coarse perlite, medium-grade perlite, and fine perlite.

  • Coarse perlite

Coarse perlite has the highest water draining capability. Therefore, it is recommended for orchids and succulent plants. 

The windy weather hardly notices this soil addition! As a result, coarse perlite rarely finds its way to the topsoil.

  • Medium grade perlite

Middle-grade perlite is the size between coarse perlite and fine perlite. It is perfect for seedlings and potted plants.

  • Fine perlite

Fine perlite is the lightest soil addition. It creates a hospitable medium for rooting cuttings and seeds.

How to use perlite for succulents

Perlite is a common addition in most succulent soil mixes. So, your potting soil should comprise 1/3 or ½ perlite.

Pros & Cons




Sand is a common term, especially in the construction industry. However, sand in gardening has also gained popularity over the years.

But, can you use any sand for potting soil? Unfortunately, no. There are different types of sand, some of which will be clumpy if used in a garden, thus not improving your soil.

Horticulture sand is the ideal sand for the aeration and drainage of your garden or soil pots. Most people also refer to this sand as coarse sand, sharp sand, or quartz sand.

However, if you don’t have the horticultural sand, you can always use builders sand or horticultural grit.

When to use horticultural sand

  • In potting mix
  • Rooting cuttings and planting seeds
  • Loosening heavy soil
  • Improving lawn health

How to use sand for plants

Most plants prefer one part of horticultural sand to two parts of compost or peat. However, most succulents require a fifty-fifty mix. In addition, you can add a thin layer of sand on top of your potting mix.

Pros & Cons



Difference Between Perlite and Sand

Now, both perlite and sand serve the same purposes in gardening. Both are great at soil aeration and drainage. However, here are the two main differences between these two soil additions:

  • Weight

Sand is heavier than perlite. This means you will need some muscle to carry a bag of sand. However, the sand and soil mixture is perfect for gardening as it is not easily affected by the winds.

  • Potting Vs gardening

Due to its heavy nature, sand is not suitable for pot plants. 

On the other hand, perlite is perfect for pot plants. However, you will need to contain it somewhere to avoid being scattered during windy weather due to its minimal weight.

can i use silica sand in my garden; what does perlite do for soil; what soil for pitcher plant

Perlite and Sand Substitutes

Besides perlite and sand, there are also other soil additions that help improve the soil’s structure. Some of these other additions add nutritional value to soil.

So, if you can’t get perlite or sand, you can also use vermiculite, peat moss, bark, pumice, calcined clay, rice husks, granite gravel, coco coir, styrofoam, and cat litter.

Best 3 Perlite for Soil Amendment

There are many perlite options in the market today. Below we have handpicked the top three perlites for potting carnivorous plants and other plants. Let’s see each of them in detail.

Organic Perlite by Perfect Plants

This perlite is perfect for both indoor and outdoor plants.

Organic Perlite by Perfect Plants improves soil aeration and allows roots to expand freely. Moreover, this perlite adds no stress on roots due to its minimal weight. So, even the young roots of seedlings can thrive easily in the presence of this perlite.

Before planting, you can mix Organic Perlite by Perfect Plants with multi-purpose potting mix or seed starter. This way, you are assured of better outcomes.

Harris Premium Horticultural Perlite

Harris Premium Horticultural Perlite can be used for gardening and indoor plants.

This perlite improves soil drainage and aeration, thus promoting plant growth. It also allows the soil to retain sizeable moisture while preserving soil nutrients for healthy plants.

Hari’s perlite is versatile; you can use it with compost bark, soil, cuttings, bulbs, etc.

This perlite is also long-lasting since it doesn’t decompose. This means that you will grow your plants at minimal costs.

GMPER100L PLANT!T Super Coarse Perlite

GMPER perlite is a perfect substitute for coarse sand for plants.

The GMPER 100L perlite is a unique volcanic mineral for potting plants. It is sterile, meaning that it harbors no insects or diseases which could harm your plants.

This perlite improves soil aeration and drainage, which is essential for healthy plants.


1. Is perlite the same as horticultural sand?

Perlite and horticultural sand are not the same things, though they serve similar purposes; aerating and drainage garden soil.

Perlite resembles pumice. You can use perlite as an addition to compost mix or horticultural sand.

2. Can I use vermiculite instead of peat moss?

Both vermiculite and peat moss are used hand in hand to aerate the soil and aid in draining excessive water from clay soil and other types of soils.

The ratio of the vermiculite and peat moss mixture will depend on the type of plants.

3. Can I use silica sand in my garden?

Silica sand reduces soil compaction, thus leading to a lower moisture retention rate. In addition, silica sandy soil keeps fungus, algae, gnats, and weeds away. These features ensure good health for your plants.

4. Can I use sphagnum peat moss for all plants?

Peat moss is made from organic material. However, peat moss has lesser plant nutritional value compared to such organic matter as compost manure. 

You will need to use sphagnum moss in conjunction with other materials for better results.


Perlite vs sand: both provide excellent aeration and drainage for plant roots, essential for root development and plant health.

The difference between the two is that sand is heavier than perlite. Also, perlite is recommended for potted plants, while sand is great for in-ground gardening.

However, the two soil additions only improve soil structure but add no nutritional value to your soil. 

So, if you would like a soil addition with the same benefits as perlite and sand and one that nourishes plants, then compost will do. Below is a comprehensive article I have written on compost: How to Use Compost in The Garden for Highest Yields

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Robert Silver

Robert Silver is a writer, speaker and certified master gardener who has been sharing his landscaping experiences through personal blogs. Taking it to the next level, Robert Silver has come up with this to shine a light on new planters and experts, discussing plants, landscape projects and much more. He has published numerous research articles on horticulture that have helped many people attain fruitful outcomes.